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Confusion over permit rules embroils couple


Edmund Janik fears his American dream is evaporating.

The Polish immigrant and his wife moved to the United States 13 years ago. They worked long hours and saved for seven years to build a home for the elderly in Pasadena. But they can't get a permit to operate it the way they planned.

"I am really disgusted," said Mr. Janik, sitting in the ornately decorated senior home. "My wife is talking about selling this property and go back to Poland."

Mr. Janik charges that county officials changed the rules after he built the eight-bedroom house, but before he could open it. But county permit officials say Mr. Janik applied for the wrong type of building permit.

According to Frank Ward, assistant director of the county Permit Application Center, the Janiks applied for a permit for a single family home rather than a group home where more than six people would live. Mr. Janik planned to house 15 people at Oak Lodge, the house on Outing Avenue.

Although assisted living homes may be listed on zoning permits fTC as single family homes, the building requirements are more like those of commercial buildings.

Mr. Ward is scheduled to meet today with the Janiks' architect to see if changes can be made that would allow the building to house 15 people.

"We're trying to work with [the Department of] Aging to avoid these type of problems," said Mr. Ward. "Hopefully, one of the things we can [answer] with this meeting is 'What can we do to salvage this?' "

The Janiks say they followed the steps given to them by the Department of Aging, which oversees several assisted-living facilities for seniors, but permit officials say that was not enough.

To house more than six people, the Janiks will have to make extensive changes to the home, including adding more parking space and widening doors. The changes would cost them thousands of dollars more than the $175,000 they already have spent, they say.

Oak Lodge Senior Home sits on a 1-acre lot with a patio, rock garden and fish pond in the back yard. Mr. Janik began planning the facility in 1993 when he contacted the Department of Aging for a set of instructions to meet county requirements for the building.

He extended water and sewer lines to the lot, built the house and passed inspections by the county departments of health, fire, zoning and aging to house 15 people. He applied for a multiple dwelling license. But William Bryant, chief building inspector for the Permit Application Center, decided the structure did not meet the code for 15 people.

Mr. Janik said he doesn't believe several other senior homes in the county meet the requirements the county is asking of him.

"They create for my property new law," he said. "Not before, not after me, was this rule. This rule is for me only."

But Mr. Ward said Mr. Janik did not apply for the proper permits. Still, Mr. Janik is frustrated. "I follow every step what I got from the Department of Aging," he said. "We did everything possible. How can we not fight when we have right?"

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